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DIY Color


A pretty little Karmen Ghia we saw at the park.

I first developed a roll of black in white film around 1971 during a graphic arts class while in high school. The school had a pretty nice darkroom with easy access, and it was there that I really got hooked on photography. Over the years I processed film myself except when shooting color. Before digital took over the most cost effective way to deal with color was to shoot slides and have prints made of the ones you liked. There were color processing kits out there, but everyone knew that color required temperature control (Kodak specified the temperature to the tenth of a degree) and the chemicals were a bit on the nasty side.

Fast forward to today and film photography has been completely buried by digital.  Film is still sold, although the variety is not what it used to be, and the day of one hour processing (Remember Fotomat?) is history.  Sure, in the big cities you can still get a roll of film done, but anymore most people either send it to one of a few processing houses or do it themselves.

Today I processed my first roll of Portra 400 using a Unicolor C-41 processing kit I purchased from Freestyle Photographic Supplies for under $20.  This is what is known as a “Press Kit” originally intended for use by photojournalists who needed to get their film processed and sent off immediately and consists of four packets of dry chemicals, a developer, a two part mix for “blix,” a combined bleach and fixer, and a packet of stabilizer.  The kit I purchased makes 1 liter of each, which is exactly enough to due two rolls of 120 film.  Unlike black and white processing you reuse the color chemicals, so how many rolls you can do per liter depends on a couple of factors.

Once the color chemicals are mixed they start degrading.  They’re sensitive to light and oxygen so they need to be stored in darkened bottles, preferably full.  Also, with each use they loose some potency.  The instructions with the kit are pretty vague on the capacity.  While it states that one liter will do four rolls of 120, it also says that you can expect to get more depending on how you handle and store the chemicals.  A little research on the internet shows some people getting 15-16 rolls of film per liter, with a storage life as long as 6 months.  I’ll be doing some experimenting on my own to see how it works for me, but four rolls is the break even point for me here in Phoenix, so looks promising.

The temperature required during processing is 102º F which is easy to maintain – I used warm water from the tap to fill up a cooler to act as a bath to keep everything at the right temperature.  You start with a one minute was of plain water at 102º to bring the tank and film up to temperature and to was some kind of coating off the film.  I was a bit surprised at the water being bright green when I drained it.  This is followed by three and a half minutes of the developer at 102º, the six and a half minutes of blix anywhere from 95º to 105º, three minutes of wash and then 30 seconds to 1 minute of stabilizer.  Unlike black and white processing the times are not film dependent, so any film using the C-41 process can be developed at the same time.
For printing, I gave up my enlarger long ago and use an Epson V750 to scan the film, and then I can post process and print using the same workflow as I use for digital.  The picture of the Karmen Ghia was processed this way.  Shooting film doesn’t replace digital, but I’m finding that there is something about it that digital doesn’t do.  As long as the option is there, I expect I’ll do both.

Assembling a little girls dream…

Setting up a bike

I do a lot of shopping on line, or in big box stores, but for some things it’s really nice to deal with a specialty shop.  There was recently a recall on my mountain bike for an issue with the quick release for the front wheel.  We bought the bike at Landis Cyclery in Phoenix a few years ago, so after receiving the recall notice from the manufacturer I took it in for the fix.  It only took a few minutes, and I saw that they had printed out the names of the purchasers of the affected bicycles and were calling them to arrange the fix.  Not something you would get from a big box store.  While we were there one of the technicians was prepping a cute little girls bike.  Same tools, same procedures and same knowledge that goes into a competitive road or mountain bike.  Definitely worth the drive into town.

Little ranch gate

Out and about today we came across a little horse ranch that sells trail rides.  Ranches around here all seem to have a large open gate – historically there’s probably a reason for it but as near as I can tell they’re decorative any more.  This one had a nice little framed stucco arch topped with lights and a cross.  It looks like it’s seen better days, but somehow it’s right for the desert in July.

Hasselblad 500/80mm@f11 and 1/250 sec, Fujifilm Acros 100 ISO


Moonrise over west PhoenixFull moon rising over west Phoenix

Phoenix doesn’t have the kind of sky line one normally sees in travel photos.  While there are a few high rises down town, most of the city is spread out, something like LA.  From the west side those high rises are visible if you know where to look, but disappear at night.  The effect is something like an oasis.

...just add water

… just add water

As barren as the desert frequently appears, there’s quite a bit of life to be found.  Water, though scarce, can be found if you know where to look.  The White Tanks got their name from the fact that frequent flash floods over time eroded depressions that hold water.  It’s not surprising that it became a choice grazing area for a cattle ranch in the early 20th century.  During its time as a ranch a windmill powered well was installed that created an oasis.  Now part of a county park, the oasis is almost swamp like in the variety of life to be found there.

Couple encountered on the trail

It’s like street photography without the street…  Actually, the Missus and I were out earlier this week doing a little more hiking in the White Tanks, and I brought along the Hassy to try out some 100 ISO black & white film.  I’ve been shooting Tri-X for years, but since the Hasselblad only goes to 1/500 of a second Tri-X is a little too fast for outside shooting.  So I bought some Kodak T-Max, Fuji Acros and Ilford Delta Professional to test out and see which one I like.  The photo above was with the Fuji Acros.  I’m pretty pleased with the contrast, but I need to see what the other films do, as well as try a couple different developers.


Nature Walk

Birds hunting

Since coming back from Dubai it’s been busy, and we’ve only just now gotten the chance to take a little break.  Today we walked a couple miles on the Southern trail in the White Tanks Mountains, just enjoying the view and taking a few pictures.  It was nice this morning with some light cloud cover and a gentle breeze taking the bite out of the sun.


What an odd looking creature, almost like something you would expect in outer space. The nautilus is one of the oldest relatives to the octopus still in existence. I like the way he’s waving a tentacle at the camera.